Counsel of Chalcedon
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1999 Issue 2

On the Beverly Hillbillies the other evening, when Granny was asked what the Civil War was, she answered: That was when the North invaded America.

After serving in the Union Army, James A. Garfield served for seventeen years in the U.S. Congress, before becoming President of the United States. In his first speech in the House of Representatives on January 28, 1864, he called for the confiscation of the land of the Confederate planters, and its redistribution among freed slaves and white Unionists in the South. (p. 4) Garfield went on to say that, after their land was confiscated, the [Confederate] leaders of this rebellion must be executed or banished... These were harsh measures, Garfield admitted, but let no weak sentiments of misplaced sympathy deter us from inaugurating a measure which will cleanse our nation and make it the fit home of freedom. (pp. 4- 5)

Coming to Jerusalem the last time before the crucifixion, the first thing Christ did was to purge the Temple. Having expelled the corruptionists, he began to preach in the cleansed House of God. He had five types of hearers on that occasion:

The priests and ecclesiastics heard him, disputed his authority, and left him. - The Herodians and politicians heard him, tried to catch him in his words, and were dumbfounded at his wisdom - The Sadducees and free-thinkers heard him, tried to outreason him, and were convinced of his ignorance. - The Scribes and moralists heard him, confessed his knowledge, and applauded his skill. - Finally the common people heard him gladly, veiled their hearts, and later at Pentecost confessed him by the thousands.

After having spent several Sunday mornings looking at "The Full Length Portrait of a Virtuous Woman" in Proverbs 31, now we must look at her counterpart in "The Heart of a Godly Man" in Job 31. A virtuous woman needs a godly man, and a godly man needs a virtuous woman - in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman, I Corinthians 11:11.

All the other books of the Old Testament have as their focus the relation of the covenant people of Israel with Jehovah, the holy nation with their God. But the Book of Job is unique in that it is a personal life-history of an individual man and his relation to Jehovah. No other book is like it in the Bible. The Book of Ruth is about Ruth, Naomi and Boaz; Ezra and Nehemiah are about the restoration of Israel; Esther is the story of two courageous people; the Song of Solomon is about a married couple, but Job stands alone and by himself. In studying this Spirit-produced book of the Bible, we are privileged to look deeply into the heart and mind of a godly man. May the godliness of this man be the model for all men.

The last two weeks of each year are not easy ones for many Reformed Christians. Our culture's Christmas observances make us feel extremely uncomfortable. We loathe the materialism and worldliness associated with Christmas. Moreover, we wonder why so many churches feel the need to modify their worship services and physical appearances in order to "celebrate" the season. We are often questioned as to why our church doesn't hold candlelight vigils on Christmas Eve, perform Christmas cantatas one Sunday near Christmas, or decorate a Christmas tree in the narthex. Most Christians cannot imagine what could be wrong with these innocent traditions. Reformed Christians who have opted out of Christmas observance at all levels are viewed with intense suspicion by family members and friends. In addition, differences of practice within the Reformed community often cause us to view one another with a censorious attitude or hurt feelings. It has been my observation that many Reformed Christians experience anxiety and uncertainty respecting the Christian's proper attitude toward Christmas. As a Reformed pastor who has struggled with the issue, I have a few thoughts to share with you on the subject. The majority of them are mainstream Reformed principles respecting the inappropriateness of observing Christmas as a religious holiday. It is also my conviction, however, that Scripture nowhere forbids family gatherings, feast days, giving of gifts, and home decoration. These are matters of preference or taste that are not under the province of the regulative principle of worship, and provided they are observed according to the general guidelines of modesty, sobriety, and good taste taught in the Bible, are legitimate for the Christian to enjoy as one of God's many gifts to his people and an expression of the Christian liberty granted to us through Christ Jesus.